One of the most obvious reasons churches fail is based upon the failure of the leadership. Not all churches fail based on leaders alone, but in many cases, the problems that precipitated the ultimate downfall of a local church were due in some part to failure on behalf of the leadership. This is why it’s essential for pastors to be mature men who walk with God and lead out of faithfulness to God and his Word.
The biblical references for the office of pastor appear in several different terms, but only once does the term “pastor” appear in the text (in the KJV – Ephesians 4:11). The ESV renders the word as “shepherds” in Ephesians 4:11. The word “pastor” is a Latin word that has in mind the shepherding duties of an overseer. The term is used interchangeably with the word, “shepherd” which points out the caring ministry of the office of elder (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
The facts are clear from Acts 20:17-28 and 1 Peter 5:1-4, that the Greek words used for the office of “pastor” are all used interchangeably (Elder, Pastor [referenced by the word “feed”], Overseer [a word often translated “bishop”]). In Ephesians 4:11, the word pastor should be connected with teacher. It’s not two offices—one for pastor and another for teacher. It’s most accurately translated as pastor-teacher.
Maturity by Definition of the Office
The office of pastor is most often referenced in the Scriptures as elder. The word “elder” in Hebrew is zaqen. In the book of Ezra it is referenced in Aramaic as sib. In the Greek Bible, including the New Testament, it is presbuteros. The words that are associated with pastoral leadership in the Bible point toward the idea of an aged man. The idea is maturity in life and doctrine.
In Paul’s words to Timothy, he clearly specifies the need for maturity in the qualifications of an overseer by describing the candidate for elder in the local church as one who is “not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).
Anyone who aspires to the office of elder must not be a recent convert—lacking in biblical wisdom and maturity in order to avoid the trappings of the enemy who often places a target upon those men who are charged with leading the local church.
Maturity in Oversight
In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul begins the section on the qualifications of a pastor by referencing the office as an “overseer.” The term used is episkopē which carries the idea of someone giving oversight or management responsibilities. This is one of the main responsibilities of a pastor. The spiritual oversight of the church is extremely vital to the health of a local church.
If a pastor is lacking in maturity, the church will suffer. For instance, the immature pastor will not be able to properly protect the sheep from the attacks of spiritual predators who constantly seek to harm God’s flock. The immature man lacks the necessary wisdom and is often not sober minded which is required (1 Tim. 3:2) for the office of elder.
The spiritual care and protection of the church is the direct responsibility of the elders. If those men lack spiritual maturity, the church will follow their example which will result in immature men who repeat similar problems in the life of their own homes. The church needs faithful mature men who become good examples to the younger men in the church. As you can imagine, immature pastors reproducing immature men who lead their homes with a spirit of immaturity results in a vicious cycle in the life of the church which causes the church as a whole to spiral out of control. You cannot expect to have immature elders and a mature church. In fact, the idea of immature elders is a categorical contradiction.
Paul addressed this reality in Ephesians 4 as he pointed out the goal of pastoral ministry as “equipping the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). The goal of equipping also involves developing maturity in the life of the church. Paul goes on to explain:
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:13–14).
Maturity in Teaching
The main distinction between the office of deacon and the office of an elder is the ability and charge of spiritual leadership through the teaching ministry of the local church. Deacons are charged with the practical care of serving the church while elders are charged with the spiritual care of leading the church. Therefore, Paul points out that the men who aspire to the office of an overseer must possess the ability to teach (1 Tim. 3:2).
The obvious charge is to preach and teach the Scriptures by rightly dividing the word of God (2 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 2:15). That is the primary responsibility of the pastor. The preaching of God’s Word is the primary ordinary means of grace whereby God grows, equips, strengthens, encourages, confronts, and sanctifies his people.
The immature man will often make serious mistakes at this juncture as he seeks to entertain the church with a shallow pulpit approach. Such a man is constantly trying to create joy by shallow and superficial humor. The immature man will be attracted to pragmatism and man-centered approaches to ministry that attract goats rather than feed the sheep.
Maturity is necessary for the man who is charged with leading the local church through the Scriptures. A wise and mature pastor understands how to properly feed the sheep. He avoids the gimmicks of church growth, the trappings of social justice, the pridefulness of “pastor-centered” preaching, and the shallow pulpit manner that is always looking for a laugh. A.W. Pink described the man who should occupy the office of elder by stating the following:
It is only those who truly love Christ that are fitted to minister to His flock! The work is so laborious, the appreciation is often so small, the response so discouraging, the criticisms so harsh, the attacks of Satan so fierce, that only the “love of Christ” – His for us and ours for Him – can “constrain” to such work. “Hirelings” will feed the goats, but only those who love Christ can feed His sheep. 1A.W. Pink, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 1139-1140.
The pastor must be a man who is mature in conduct and doctrine—one who possesses a life of maturity and the pursuit of God from the pages of Scripture. A pastor marked by immaturity will result in a church marked by immaturity. The woes of an immature pastor will hinder the progress of a local church and precipitate sinful patterns that lead the body of Christ into a spiritual downgrade.
|1||A.W. Pink, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 1139-1140.|